Decision to approve controversial Galway City Ring Road 'bizarre', Green Party senator says

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Decision to approve controversial Galway City Ring Road 'bizarre', Green Party senator says
© Arup via The approved N6 ring road in red would loop 18km around the north of Galway city.

THE TRANSPORT MINISTER has “noted” the approval of the Galway City Ring Road, a decision by An Bord Pleanála which has been described as “bizarre” by a Green Party senator. 

Last night, ABP gave the green light to the proposed ring road around the north of Galway City after several delayed deadlines. 

The controversial 18km road, estimated to cost €600 million, is aimed at alleviating traffic congestion in the city which has been an issue in Galway for years.

Plans for a ring road or bypass around the city have been a crucial part of the discussion on this issue for more than two decades. 

A spokesperson for Transport Minister Eamon Ryan said the Green Party leader “notes the decision of An Bord Pleanala in relation to the Galway Ring Road”. 

“In terms of next steps, legislation provides for an eight-week period during which such planning decisions may be challenged in the courts,” the spokesperson said. 

Green Party senator Pauline O’Reilly criticised the “bizarre” decision to approve the road “given what the board itself said” about the impact it will have on carbon emissions.

ABP’s decision document on the approval of the road said the project is “likely to result in a significant negative impact on carbon emissions and climate that will not be fully mitigated”.

O’Reilly told The Journal that the approval of the project “flies in the face” of Ireland’s climate commitments and the 2019 declaration of a climate and biodiversity emergency. 

“Obviously there is a congestion problem in Galway, but this is not the way to deal with it,” she said.  

O’Reilly said it is possible that some involved in the process will look to appeal the ABP decision and that she will “certainly” support appeals. 

Approval welcomed by others

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the approval of the road is “excellent news”. 

“Fully support this project. Will take the traffic out of Galway City and make it more liveable for residents and visitors and safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Will be good for business and employment too,” Varadkar said on Twitter.

Galway County Council, Galway City Council and Transport Infrastructure Ireland welcomed the approval in a statement yesterday evening. 

The statement said it is “welcome news for the thousands of commuters” in the city “who find themselves at a standstill for long periods in traffic congestion”. 

“It is welcome news too for those using public transport who will see their journey times fall and for those who will be attracted to public transport because it can operate more efficiently and reliably,” the joint statement said. 

It added that they are conscious of the “significant impact the road will have on many property owners but especially those residential properties affected by it”. 

The council statement said: “Unfortunately, given the significant constraints for developing new transport infrastructure in the urban environment and the linear nature of the City, avoidance of properties was not possible.

The council will continue to engage as constructively as possible with each and every land and property owner along the route.

54 homes are subject to be acquired and/or demolished to make way for the road. The ABP decision said this will “result in a significant to profound permanent negative impact on homeowners”. 

One of these homeowners, Deirdre Goggin, told The Journal earlier this year that she and others impacted felt “stuck” after years of waiting to see what would happen to their homes. 

A statement from Galway Chamber said it believes the project will “enhance the liveability of the city, through its urban regeneration capacity with the potential of improving the quality of space in the city”. 

Ibec, a group representing Irish businesses, also welcomed the approval of the road, saying the project is a “key growth enabler for the entire West region”. 

“The Galway Transport Strategy places an emphasis on delivering sustainable transport solutions,” the group said in a statement.

“The GCRR [Galway City Ring Road] is a core component of the strategy, providing more space for sustainable modes of travel such as walking, cycling, and public transport in the metropolitan area, to support planned population growth, in a compact and sustainable manner.”

Fine Gael senator Seán Kyne said the approval of the road is “great news for Galway”. 

Green Party and roads 

A statement today from a spokesperson for Eamon Ryan continued: “If there are no legal challenges the [ring road] project will move to the next stage where it will be assessed under the Public Spending Code under a range of criteria.” 

The Galway ring road is included in the government’s renewed National Development Plan for 2021-2030.

Ryan said in the Dáil in September 2020 that “if the city authorities [in Galway] believe waiting for a ring road to solve their problems will make matters better, they are making a fundamental mistake”.

Division lines were struck between Fianna Fáil and the Greens earlier this year when Minister Ryan initially refused to sign off on a road construction project in Limerick.

The refusal caused “consternation locally”, according to Fianna Fáil TD Willie O’Dea who said Ryan’s decision to review the project was a “clear breach of the Programme for Government”. 

The €45 million road will link Coonagh and Knockalisheen. Minister Ryan later confirmed that the road plan would go ahead.

Earlier this year, the Welsh government decided to temporarily suspend most new road-building pending a review of the projects as part of climate measures.

Speaking at the COP26 climate summit last month, Eamon Ryan said this was a “really innovative, really progressive, very interesting” decision that Ireland could “learn” something from.

‘Real problem’ in Galway city 

Peter Butler, chairperson of the An Taisce Galway branch, said his group “expected” the approval of the road, but that it “will not solve the real problem in the city” in terms of traffic congestion. 

He said there is “never going to be a significant change from cars to buses” until public transport improves in the city. 

“The car is king in Galway,” he told The Journal, adding that the ring road would “exacerbate” this.

“It’s not solving the real problem. This is another example of very bad planning which the city has suffered from for many years.

“We feel it will never be built,” he said.

Proposals for a road to relieve Galway city centre of some traffic date back to the late 1990s. 

The 18km road under the current plans would loop around the north of the city, giving drivers a way to access outer parts of the city and pass from east to west without entering the centre.

It is also intended to free up road space for cyclists, pedestrians and public transport in the city centre.

However, its critics have said the project will do none of these things, and will simply be a costly, “overkill” solution to the congestion problem.

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